India should not welcome Pakistan ambassador Sohail Mahmood until it assures Kulbhushan Jadhav's safety

India shouldn't get too comfortable with the ICJ verdict staying the execution of former naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav in Pakistan.

So long as he is in the custody of Pakistan and denied a defence in appeal or even the basic permission to access consular services, it would be wrong to feel there is a victory in it.

Pakistan may be a signatory to the Geneva and Vienna conventions and other grand multilateral treaties but that didn’t produce any sense of regret or apology over the mutilation of two soldiers killed on the Line of Control (LoC).

Sohail Mahmood. Image courtesy: YouTube

Sohail Mahmood. Image courtesy: YouTube

The cruel fact is that if something untoward were to occur to Jadhav while in prison what can the ICJ or India do by way of consequences? The answer is pretty much nothing. You cannot bank sanctions and they mean very little.

The ICJ is a pleasant little legal interlude. It's like a country club membership, well-meaning and enormously gracious in its service but with no real teeth to bite into injustice.

Even Pakistan knows it is simply playing cat and mouse with an Indian citizen and its reaction to the international court not even 24 hours after the verdict is distinctly hostile.

Pakistan's defence minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif tweeted on Monday that the Indian letter to ICJ attempts to divert attention from the state-sponsored terrorism in Pakistan and that Jadhav was convicted of offences against national security. The ICJ, he said, has crossed its limits, thereby indicating its scorn for this legal entity.

Asif’s statement is aggressive and Pakistan will find a loophole in the Indian effort to go to the world body because New Delhi has often questioned the authority of the ICJ on bilateral Indo-Pak issues.

This stance from the past may be a prickly pear for us now because we need global backing to save Jadhav’s life. He's clearly being a pawn on this chessboard.

India has made a strong case based on the premise that the sentence of the military court was in "brazen defiance" of the Vienna Convention under Article 36.

So, that card will be played, but what is a matter of concern is Pakistan’s indifference to global opinion and the way that attitude might push it to ensure a clever accident or ailment on the prisoner.

Much as that possibility is an anathema, it exists, and because it exists India has to up the stakes to a "hold it" level which includes the option of freezing the reception by the president of the new Ambassador to India, Sohail Mahmood, who is leaving his appointment in Turkey for New Delhi later this month.

Unless Pakistan assures India of a fair treatment and consular access while this issue is being argued at the ICJ, the government should keep the diplomat at bay.

The thing is, we have let the rope go on the atrocities and no one seems to be doing much about that.

If something happens to Jadhav what will India do in the aftermath? Rather than making mewling sounds of condemnation, India should pre-empt them by moving on the diplomatic front and showing genuine intent.

Published Date: May 10, 2017 19:07 PM | Updated Date: May 10, 2017 19:14 PM

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